Corruptor, The (1999) Review

"The Corruptor" US Theatrical Poster

"The Corruptor" US Theatrical Poster

AKA: N.Y.P.D. 15 (Japan), NYPD 15
Director: James Foley
Writer: Robert Pucci
Producer: Bill Carraro, Terence Chang, Oliver Stone
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg, Ric Young, Paul Ben-Victor, Jon Kit Lee, Andrew Pang, Brian Cox, Elizabeth Lindsey, Byron Mann, Kim Chan, Bill MacDonald, Susie Trinh
Running Time: 110 min.

By Numskull

After seeing this movie, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. While not spectacular, it’s very solid in every way that counts, and after the abysmal Replacement Killers, Chow Yun-Fat was in dire need of a well put-together film with reasonable mainstream appeal to regain lost ground with American viewers.

It appears I breathed too soon, though, as neither The Corruptor nor CYF’s next U.S. film, Anna and the King, made significant impact. He had to return to Asia to make a movie that really delivered financially as well as artistically (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). So does this mean his Hollywoodization is a doomed prospect? Maybe so, but never let it be said he didn’t put some effort into it.

The Corruptor has unjustly been labeled an action movie. I suspect that this is not so much because the powers that be are aware of what brought Chow Yun-Fat to the dance (his collaborations with John Woo, mostly) but because American standards regarding what constitutes an action flick are all fucked up.

“Oh, look, a shootout. File under action.”

“Oh, look, a car chase. File under action.”

“Oh, look, that girl slapped that guy. That’s almost a fist fight. File under action.”

Well, The Corruptor does have a couple of shootouts, and it does have a car chase (a ferocious one at that), but these are plot points. Storytelling tools. The violence is not the focal point of the whole film. It’s a story with familiar HK themes of redemption, betrayal, and honor among thieves. Perhaps this is why it didn’t sell well to most Americans…it’s too complicated for them.

In the wretched pile of feces known as The Replacement Killers, Chow Yun-Fat had his first English-speaking role and was stuck with an absolutely clueless director. He just kind of coasted through the whole thing, trying to look cool and not trip over his tongue. Here, he is clearly much more comfortable with the English language and does some actual ACTING instead of just reciting his dialogue for the camera. There are a few “What did he say?” lines but most of his speech is quite sufficient.

Unlike Antoine Fuqua, director James Foley “gets it”.

CYF’s co-star Mark Wahlberg is a former rapper and therefore obviously has no taste in music, but his acting abilities really aren’t bad. The supporting cast, which includes quite a few Chinese, is remarkably solid. There are no performances that truly suck. Almost every character in this movie is a villain on some level, and most of them are suitably despicable.

Really, the only bad thing about this movie is the soundtrack. It’s loaded with rap and pseudo-rap, the lowest forms of communication ever devised. Mercifully, none of it lasts very long, and it’s generally not obtrusive.

No reason not to watch this one, folks. It may not be spectacular but it’s finely polished and it’s got heart and originality, two things Hollywood films almost always lack.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

By Yates

James Foley’s The Corrupter isn’t a terrible film. It is an American one. Don’t go in expecting The Killer, this is more along the lines of Year of the Dragon. One thing I really liked about the film was the acting. Chow Yun-Fat gives a wonderful performance as the corrupted cop, Nick Chen, and Mark Whalberg is fine in his role. The cinematogrophy is another plus, and so is some of the action. The few complaints I have about the film are that there are too many under developed characters and a rather anti climactic ending. If you liked Year of the Dragon, you will enjoy this film.

Yate’s Rating: 7.5/10

By James H.

“The Corruptor” is a step in a new direction for James Foley. He has never really directed an action film before. He’s made outstanding character dramas (“Glengarry Glen Ross” and the brilliant “At Close Range”), but never an action-oriented film like this.

The plot concerns a white cop, Danny Wallace (Wahlberg), joining the Asian Gang Unit in New York’s Chinatown. A veteran of the Chinatown beat, Nick Chen (Yun-Fat), takes him under his wing. Together the two try to take down the head of the crime syndicate, and learn along the way that all is not what it seems.

Foley’s directing has this almost hyperkinetic energy to it. There is some really beautiful cinematography. The car chase in the film is exceptional. It’s one of the more realistic I’ve seen in a while. It shows the consequences of the stray bullets. The violence in “The Corruptor” is quite graphic. It is in no way glorified and some of it will make you cringe.

I think this film failed at the box office for two reasons. First, I think people were expecting another “Replacement Killers” kind of flick. Lots of guns, lots of explosions and very little plot or character. This film did have a plot, and while maybe a bit cliched, it still worked very well. Also, the characters were somewhat developed.

The other reason is that Mark Wahlberg is in it. For some reason people look down on him because he was once leader of the Funky Bunch. Some people might have to face the fact that Wahlberg is a decent actor. His performances in “Boogie Nights” and “Three Kings were not just accidents. Wahlberg was able to hold his own on screen with Chow Yun-Fat.

The DVD put out by New Line is a dandy one. It has plenty of extras, such as a very interesting documentary on the making of the film. The documentary contains the original version of the car chase which is longer, bloodier and more violent. DVD owners are in luck, the disc also has the widescreen version, which is much better than the pan & scan. The sound is also very clear and crisp; the gunshots sound incredible.

“The Corruptor” is an American film starring Chow Yun-Fat. It is directed by James Foley. If you rent it expecting a John Woo-type movie like “Hard Boiled” or “A Better Tomorrow”, go rent “The Killer”.

James H’s Rating: 8/10

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